One of the most wonderful things about long-term travel is that it’s…well, long-term. And because you have more time to travel, you have a greater opportunity to choose to travel green.
As someone who has traveled long-term, I know it can be hard to feel like we as individuals can still make a difference. But here are some ways you can help the environment and travel green on the road.
Make an Effort from the Beginning
From the start, think about ways you can make your trip a little greener. Whether it’s by making a conscious effort to eat locally or walking a mile instead of taking the bus, be aware of your impact and think about the changes you can make to your travels. (If you have no idea where to start, see the tips at the end of this post.)
Turn These Efforts into Habits
Once you make the initial commitment to traveling greener, turn your efforts into habits. Turn off the lights, carry a reusable bag with you (which is almost a must when traveling, since many countries charge you for a shopping bag), or reuse a water bottle. Do these small things each and every day and make them habits. The more we get used to doing something, the more second-nature it becomes.
Respect the Local Culture
Sometimes when vagabonding, you begin to miss your home country, customs, and culture. As a green traveler, you should remember to not only respect, but also to entrench yourself in the local culture wherever you are. When I lived in Russia, there was a bar run by an American expat that we visited often. Yes, it was fun to have a hamburger and banana split once in a while, but we could have been frequenting truly local spots, sipping Baltika in beer tents or downing vodka in the park. The “Western lifestyle” usually has to be imported, and transportation of goods is a sure way to increase your carbon footprint. Live locally…you went there for a reason, right?
Keep Traveling Slowly
The best way to be a green traveler is to keep traveling slowly. Bus, bike, walk, or train. Try to avoid air travel. Planes have a huge impact on the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change. Pick an alternative mode of transportation and see the countryside! There’s no rush to get to the next destination when you’re vagabonding the green way!
5 Practical Tips for the Green Vagabonder
1. Pack less stuff.
Why it’s green: When you pack light, fewer resources are required to transport your stuff.
Why it helps you: You’ll save your back (we all know a time when we were miserable from carrying too much stuff).
2. Carry a water bottle.
Why it’s green: No waste created from empty bottles.
Why it helps you: You save money because you won’t have to buy water. Another option (if you can’t drink the local water) is to buy extra-large jugs of water and leave them at the hostel; fill your bottle with only what you’ll need that day.
3. Walk, walk, walk.
Why it’s green: No carbon emissions when walking.
Why it helps you: You’ll stay in shape and save money.
4. When you can’t walk, take public transportation.
Why it’s green: Fewer carbon emissions than a rental car or taxi.
Why it helps you: You get to really experience the local way of life and maybe meet some interesting locals (plus, it’s cheaper.)
5. Eat less food and eat locally.
Why it’s green: The “carbon footprint” of food is extraordinary! Eating less means there’s less waste, and eating locally means a smaller footprint.
Why it helps you: You’ll be healthier and save money. You’ll also gain a greater appreciation for the local culture.
So use these tips to help travel green and save the environment!
Elizabeth Sanberg is an avid traveler committed to reducing her environmental impact without spending a fortune. She currently lives in Washington DC and is the co-editor of Go Green Travel Green.